The Rabid Independent, Nonpartisan solutions, independent policy ideas

Is it honorable to serve?

We have watched a parade of candidates prostrate themselves before our future king, desperate to get a position in the new court. When the more normal or decent among them is asked how they feel about working for a person they openly denounced, they tell us they must think of their country first. ” It’s the honorable thing to do.” Is it?

This is rather easy to resolve. What if the worst moron or tyrant were elected? Should we try to get involved to offset his malevolence? Let’s say we succeed in our little area. Perhaps we provide good economic advice or we help foster a new diplomatic relationship with a former enemy. The credit for all that would go to the tyrant and would help him achieve his other malevolent goals. Great, the economy is humming along. Now he can give tax breaks to friendly billionaires or spend the money on bombs. If we negotiate a new peace with country A, he can invade country B with less or no risk.

Who remembers Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s economic minister? He performed something of a miracle by stabilizing the disastrous economy after a brutal case of hyperinflation. The rest of the world was in the midst of the Great Depression. Wow. All this work facilitated the rearming of the country. Schacht served the people well and the tyrant benefited.

Would the Vietnam war have continued if everyone in Johnson’s cabinet who knew about the scam in the Gulf of Tonkin had resigned? What if Colin Powell had resigned and admitted he had been conned by the CIA and made to lie by the administration? Did he help his country by staying the course?

The worst excuse is to argue that someone else will do it if you don’t. Let some other corrupt sycophant take the job. His failure means the tyrant will fail faster.In the end the new king won’t thank you anyway. He thinks every win is his work. Did Colin Powell retire with dignity? Did Robert McNamara?

In the end good people will never change or improve the idiot king. They are far more likely to be dragged down by him.

What Did Voters Vote for?

When I grew up in the ’70’s it seemed like everyone listened to the same music. There were different genres like Motown, Disco, and Rock but it was rare that someone you knew only listened to one. Most stations played a mix so you heard both Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Up to the mid ’80’s the situation changed little as Journey and Michael Jackson coexisted, appealing to all (young) demographic groups. 

In the 90’s this situation changed as baby boomers went off on their own and classic stations boomed. Teeny-pop took off side by side with Rap and the audiences separated. Watching the Grammy’s became harder and harder as each faction would have to sit through some award or performance that they couldn’t stand. The internet made these divisions even greater.   

I feel that the same dynamic has occurred in politics. After the death of the Soviet Union we lost a common thread between our two parties that made them cooperate. War or the threat of war used to unite southern racists with northeaster liberals. Now that globalization has broken the rather solid record of capitalism, everything is on the table. We can make a good case for tax cuts and tax increases. One can argue reasonably for more and for less government. Isolationism has returned to the menu.

The parties can’t keep up. Is the Republican Party in favor of more or less trade? Does it want giant tax cuts for all or is it the party of fiscal austerity? Is the Democratic Party progressive as in Bernie Sanders or pro status quo as in Hillary Clinton?

As the economic ideologies crack and creeping liberalism takes over issues like drug legalization and gay marriage, two parties can never articulate the myriad of views held by each member or party. The Republicans, by accident, solved this by choosing a candidate who stood for a host of contradicting positions. As a populist he stood against trade and for deportations. As a Republican billionaire he loves trade and cheap labor for big business. 

We are left to wonder what the nature of the next government will look like. Will it have a Rick Santorum, Christian right theme? Will Trump invade Syria or pretend it does’t exist. He could come out for giant tax cuts or for fiscal austerity. Whatever he chooses there will be support from some corner of the party because it has so many factions.   

We need more parties.

If we did, we could split the Dems into a centrist wing and a Bernie Green Party wing. The Repubs would become at least three parties: Libertarians, big defense, corporate tax cutting foreign interventionists, and populist isolationists who want to build walls and raise tariffs.

If we had a number of parties they would be forced to build coalitions to pass bills. Yes it would be hard to find agreement but it can’t be any worse than it is now. The other thing it would solve is the chance that one wing wins an election and the other wing reads that as a win for them. As of now Paul Ryan can see this Trump win as a victory that grants him the right to take apart Medicare. He has enough votes in both houses to get a lot of his crazy agenda passed. Is that what the people voted for? 

There would be chaos, you say. We would have a government like Italy or Israel. The more probable outcome is that we would have only a few parties and each would have normal relationships that would create coalitions (as in the UK). The Greens and the socialistic Liberals would come together to pass legislation. The difference would be that there would be no doubt as to who won the most votes, so we would know who had the upper hand.  

As of now we don’t know what wing of the Republican party is in control. In some ways it seems that they all do. Our new Attorney General is a religious nut who may start arresting weed dispensers for drug trafficking. All our new generals may start invading the Middle East or our own homes. We could see giant new tax cuts tabled at the same time as a government shutdown occurs to protest new spending.

Everyone is asking the same question – What does the Trump victory mean, in terms of policy? The answer will not be: A consistent set of new initiatives to promote the populist rhetoric of his campaign. It’s far more likely to be a grab bag of ideas from all corners of his party. So many people with different agendas are now in the mix there’s almost no way for Trump to control them. It’s a smackdown –  Priebus verses Bannon. By having no consistent theme to his cabinet choices or advisers Trump has already lost control. 

Let the chaos begin. 

Effete Liberals and Our Biased Media.

It is a common style of humor to describe “liberals” as overrefined, enfeebled, spoiled. They spend all their free time in Whole Foods buying Kale. They attend the ballet and listen to NPR while reading the New York Times. There used to be a term for such people – limousine liberals. The caricatures we made of those hypocrites has taken over the entire voting group. African Americans are almost entirely “liberal” but I don’t think we would characterize them as ballet loving or addicted to NPR. Somehow it became popular to presume that the value system of a liberal could only be held by relatively wealthy, white, coastal, highly educated people.

liberals

Is this the result of the takeover of the Democratic Party by the Clintons? What about Bernie Sanders? Does he spend his time in Whole Foods buying kale?  The caricature seems to have arrived at precisely the time when progressives have lost touch with their normal constituency – the working class. In this regard they have become much like the frequently mocked limousine liberals of the 20th century (FDR et al). They have allowed their appeal or message to become very narrow. It will be easy to tell going forward who can revive the party: look for the person who expands his/her appeal to include rural people and the working poor, and not by offering a few meager carrots but by actually being comfortable with that constituency. Elections cannot be won by discussing the plight of minorities ad infinitum.

Our Biased Media

I have been listening to a lot of indictments of the main stream media by people who want to sound unbiased. I think it’s fair to say that very few people in the Democratic Party look upon CNN as terribly biased. So what these radio personalities and bloggers are really doing is making the Trump voter case. Is that fair?

If I were at CNN and my first task was to relate his various statements to Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women, it would be hard for me not to comment about how outrageous and inappropriate the comments were. Would that make me biased? I probably wouldn’t have to say anything.

My next job was to report on Mr. Trump’s thoughts about torture where he said he would seek to “broaden” the laws to allow torture, including but not limited to waterboarding – so he would abandon the Geneva convention and therefore the US Constitution. If I editorialized by saying that such a policy would be illegal then I would be accused of being biased again.

Aside from saying that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese [?], he also said this: “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!” If I were to suggest that his views on global warming were rather uninformed, then I would once again be accused of bias.

We can have a reasonable discussion about whether CNN and CBS [for example] were biased in 2012 when they discussed the speeches and policies of Romney and Obama. When the statements of a candidate are so extreme, contradictory and outrageous that no bias is needed to see to expose them then the accusation no longer holds. The media may have wanted to be biased but they didn’t need to be. Trump’s behavior was so inappropriate, they had only to repeat his words. If you don’t like them, that’s on you, not the mainstream media.

We could probably say that this was the most unbiased media, during an election, that we have seen in some time.

 

 

Citizens of the world – Burn shoes!

Does it make you happy to know that a foreigner living in a third world country has been brought out of poverty by virtue of a trade deal with the US? Does it matter to you that they did so by firing US workers? If you don’t care about your neighbor (he can find another job or go back to school) then you have passed the first Clinton test of political tone deafness. You will never win back the middle class nor do you deserve to.

Does it warm your heart to know that allowing in an illegal immigrant has provided a job and a better life to an impoverished foreigner regardless of whether it is at the expense of a domestic worker? If your answer is yes then you have passed the second Clinton test of political tone deafness.

Do you believe that Islam is a religion of peace and that it is utterly disconnected from global terrorism? Are you happy with its tenets regarding women, apostates, and homosexuals, so much so that you are completely indifferent to whether new immigrants are Muslim or atheists? If you answered Yes then you have passed the third Clinton test for (stupidity) and political tone deafness.

If you answered yes to all three questions then – congratulations, you are a citizen of the world, not a citizen of the US. You take pride in all the new skyscrapers in Beijing and look upon your neighbor with complete indifference. You love new trade deals and trust every Muslim immigrant – how dare they do onerous background checks on these poor people? Your mentality prevents you from seeing that a company that employs only Americans is evil (New Balance) . One that outsources to 3rd world countries – hiring children and paying slave wages is your champion (Nike).  I hope you are happy living in the political wilderness.

 

http://www.wsj.com/video/new-balance-sparks-social-media-backlash/09AB650C-6891-4A05-A7E9-FE11FFB1CBF3.html

Trump may not be the guy to worry about.

Now that we have Trump we also have a completely Republican Congress. Every bill originates in the House of Representatives, not in the White House. They will begin to produce laws by the bucketload because they know that there are almost no impediments to getting them passed. They can repeal Dodd Frank, repeal ObamaCare, destroy the EPA and any clean energy incentives.

I watched Hillary’s goodbye speech, Obama’s transition speech, Trump’s victory speech, and Paul Ryan’s celebratory jig. I am utterly freaked out by Ryan. He was gleeful at the new power of the Republican congress and drooling over the immediate destruction of Obamacare (to start with). He referred to it as the one thing that every American abhors. Really? Does that include the 20 million people who got insurance through exchanges? What about the part of it that protects people with preexisting conditions? He also can’t wait to wreck  Medicare. This is a malevolent moron who read Atlas Shrugged and actually believes it has merit?!

Trump won this election by virtue of being an outsider – not a Congressman. Now he must decide if he wants to stick to the set of policies he advocated on the campaign trail or throw in his lot with the evil Congressional Repubs. On many issues they are diametrically opposed. Those disenfranchised old white people need more healthcare not less. They want less trade not more but the Congressional Repubs want more. (Republicans love “free trade”) The base hates Wall Street so Dodd Frank makes sense since it weakens Wall Street. Paul Ryan hates Dodd Frank. The small government obsession of Ryan and his band of nutjobs is not the agenda of lower middle class underemployed  white people. Unless Trump gets ahead of Ryan he will start to receive bills requiring his signature. It will be awfully tempting to sign away.

As President Obama pointed out, the election was going to determine if any of his policies will endure. Republicans can now go about dismantling every single bill, treaty, and program that Obama got passed. Normally a retired President gets to relax a little, make a few speeches, do some charity work, read a book. Barack Obama is a spectacular public speaker with a huge constituency. If he wants to have any legacy at all he has to hit the road and galvanize support to stop Congress and/or Trump from destroying everything he has done.

Obama’s New Role

He could/must set up demonstrations by people who are about to lose their healthcare if/when Obamacare gets repealed. The numbers could be huge. He should also point out that they want to kill Medicare too. That will bring out an ocean of old people. It’s time someone got those people riled up against conservatism. Healthcare is a perfect wedge issue. He could put fear into everyone about their water supply if the EPA is destroyed. He could scare people about Iranian nukes if the Iranian inspections are cancelled. He could scare Hispanics about mass deportations. There are so many huge constituencies that could be energized, and he is just the guy to do it. He could ask Bernie to help out.

If he doesn’t then Paul Ryan will wipe him from history.

The Clash of the Weaklings

In 1976 we were offered two horrible candidates – a Nixon apologist and a slow talking peanut farmer. In a debate, President Ford famously said “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Carter countered by butchering an interview with Playboy magazine. Ford was the status quo guy who would preserve the Nixon administration’s imperial presidency and Carter was the outsider, fighting for change. They flaccidly limped toward the finish line. No matter who won it was easy to argue that neither would win a second term.

I won’t go over the flaws of our two candidates at this time but what’s clear is that neither has a prayer of winning a second term. Trump would do well to not be impeached but the biggest problem is that changing the stats quo is hard. There are too many vested interests and he has no support within his own party in Congress. This was the problem Jimmy Carter had. In the next campaign he had no story to tell about changing the system.

Hillary on the other hand likes the Obama world so she will certainly have nothing to show off in a new campaign. She will be so hated and ineffectual that any Republican candidate (not named Trump) could defeat her in 2020. It has been argued (by Andrew Sullivan among others) that the Clintons have told all other Dems to stay away from running for the nomination but after four years it will be awfully tempting. If Bernie were ten years younger…

We will undoubtedly get another Republican “outsider”, a statist Republican, and a lost Democrat who has no ideas at all since the party has sold it’s soul to nutbars who love open borders, free trade, and unlimited budget deficits. The party system is failing and the media wants to keep it intact. The media will win and we shall shuffle into a permanent political quagmire until some dramatic international event re-empowers the Presidency.

Until then we can look forward to – Ted Cruz verses anyone-but-Hillary in 2020.

 

They Got the Outsider Message

For twenty years hate radio has ruled AM wavelengths. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and all their friends attack Democratic politicians and often stand for certain right wing principles but there is one swear word that permeates every rant – “Washington“. It is said with contempt, scorn, disdain, disgust. Every politician who lives there is corrupted by its taint – even Republicans. No one gets a pass.

Washington. – that vile cesspool.

Even if Rush tries to speak up for a Repub with a “good” record he will fail because he created the association and he can’t take it back. There can be no good guys in such a place. Every listener and disciple has gotten the message. The so-called eastern Republican establishment may still champion some politicians (such as Paul Ryan) but the base can never make any sense of it. Their brain washing is complete.

Along comes an outsider so completely not a politician that he is willing to prove it by having no conventional (right wing) principles  and no policies. Policy ideas would connect him to Washington. By accident he stumbled into talking about trade deals because his ghost written book was called The Art of the Deal and even he couldn’t miss the logical connection. Renegotiating trade deals became his only policy idea. All his other primary contenders were from Washington. Hillary Clinton virtually defines Washington. 

He could spit on every follower and they would still love him because it would be further proof of his outsider bona fides. No Washington politician would ever do such a thing. They want someone who really doesn’t care if he wins, someone who doesn’t care about currying favor with any voting bloc. Incompetence is a sign of being an outsider – don’t worry, he’ll figure it out after he wins and when he arrives it won’t be business as usual. The hate radio talkers are getting exactly what they asked for.

If you can’t see the video go HERE)

Everyone is wondering how his followers stick with him after every gaffe, constant lies, and appalling sexist/misogynist rants. Surely the religious right will abandon him, you say – they won’t. No other subgroup definition matters as much as Washington-Haters. Rush has even taught born-again Christians to care less about what Jesus would say than about hating all Washingtonians.

The east coast Republican center is aghast. Even though they’re for small(er) government, they are of Washington. They like having connections to power and they brag about it. Many worked for Reagan or Bush and they want to believe that qualifies them to lead their party or define the policies that it advocates.

The base believes it renders them unfit for public life.

Brexit – A Return to Normalcy

In ancient Rome they called it Portorium. As goods poured in and out of Rome a tax was put on the importation of foreign products. Around the time of the American Revolution there were only two sources of government revenue:

  • Taxes on booze
  • Import duties (tariffs).

This was essentially true right up to the 20th century when we made income taxes permanent. Everyone for millennia have plainly understood a simple truth:  One should favor the products made by your neighbor over those produced by someone outside your community or country. I need my neighbor to prosper so he can buy my stuff and I want him to pay taxes towards the school that our children attend and the roads we both use. If he’s gainfully employed, then I don’t need to worry about him having to borrow from me or rob me at the local Seven Eleven.

It’s true – that makes me a bad citizen of the world but I assume that they’ll all act the same way. Take a look at local Mexican or Chinese policies and you’ll see a huge structural preference for locally made goods,  There have been quid pro quo tariffs on all goods traded throughout the world forever until two things changed:

  1. Economists started to argue that we would be richer if we screwed our neighbors and bought stuff from people on the other side of the world (even if they never buy anything we produce).
  2. People started to desperately seek any savings they could get so they abandoned their preference for local products.
  3. Companies stopped worrying about how their ex-employees would be able to buy anything after they fired them en masse. They became the government’s problem. A short term earnings gain matters far more than weak sales far into the future.

Brexit is about to put England back into a position that previous generations would recognize well. Mercedes cars will cost more and domestically made textiles and food will become more competitive. France thinks this is hilarious – Mon Dieu! How backward! France has bought into the idea that massive German and Chinese imports are marvelous and perpetual economic stagnation – no problem. France had a trade balance in 2001 – now it has an 85bn Euro deficit.

Yes I know all those theoretical economists will say there will be huge costs to not getting oceans of cheap junk from China but apparently they haven’t been following the British current account:

united-kingdom-current-account

Mon Dieu!  One could argue that a drastic measure like Brexit was necessary to save Englishman from their import crazed insanity. All those well to do bankers who must now decamp seemed to be good at only buying foreign goods and going on holiday anywhere but in the UK.

“Free” trade is so profoundly un-free that the USA, like the UK , has become a dumping ground for luxurious Audi’s and tons and tons of Chinese steel. Sadly it’s the biggest economic issue of our day and the message deliverer is a moronic narcissist. The first half of the debate was won by Trump because every sane person sees the logic in his argument. Hillary is and should be embarrassed by the position of her party on this issue. That’s how she acted on stage. It wasn’t until we got into Donald’s crazy tax plan and his record of hypocrisy and racism that Hillary took over.

I can only hope that the sting she felt at the beginning made enough of an impact that it affects her policies when she becomes President.

Our New Precrime Department to Catch Islamists

Let’s pair up the two worst kinds of people in the world – Islamists and Pedophiles. I won’t debate which is worse but the problem is similar:

  • In the case of Pedophiles we make it a crime for them to look at child pornography in the belief that such behavior may well lead to actual human activity, and the process of producing such material damages children.
  • In the case of Islamists, they usually consume Jihad related media that depicts brutal violence. This may lead to actual mimicry of what they see inside our borders. Its production also causes great harm to the infidels or homosexuals who are murdered for the sake of producing motivational material.

So the problem is the same – how do we get these people before they commit an egregious crime. In the case of Pedophiles the US government had an idea:

In February 2015, the FBI took control of Playpen, the largest dark web child pornography site at the time. But instead of shutting the site down, the agency kept it going for just under two weeks, in order to deliver malware to its visitors in the hope of identifying suspects in its investigation.

Newly filed court exhibits now suggest that the site performed substantially better while under the FBI’s control, with users commenting on the improvements. The defense for the man accused of being the original administrator of Playpen claims that these improvements led to the site becoming even more popular.

“The FBI distributed child pornography to viewers and downloaders worldwide for nearly two weeks, until at least March 4, 2015, even working to improve the performance of the website beyond its original capability,” Peter Adolf, an assistant federal defender in the Western District of North Carolina, writes in a motion to have his client’s indictment thrown out.

“As a result, the number of visitors to Playpen while it was under Government control [increased] from an average of 11,000 weekly visitors to approximately 50,000 per week. During those two weeks, the website’s membership grew by over 30%, the number of unique weekly visitors to the site more than quadrupled, and approximately 200 videos, 9,000 images, and 13,000 links to child pornography were posted on the site,” he continues.

Motherboard found that the FBI hacked over 4,000 computers, including in countries as far afield as Chile and Austria.

The whole idea of the government distributing child porn is a little crazy but the tactic is logical, and they seem to have found something they’re good at. They have drawn in predators and caught them. Similarly we need to create the best Jihad site there is and promote it. It could give out prizes of free airfare to Syria to fight for ISIS against Assad. The stuff written would be distasteful and the images – fake, but convincing. All the sweepstakes winners would have to hand in their passports and they really would be sent to Syria – good riddance. Their future contact (from Aleppo) with club members would provide legitimacy to the group. We could plant representatives for our site(s) in every mosque. FBI agents could host farewell parties for the sweepstakes winners.

If you were a crazy Islamic radical wouldn’t you want to join?

 

Free Some Whistle Blowers!

Every few years we get a person willing to sacrifice their life to expose government corruption and fraud. Unfortunately we can list them almost on one hand:

  1. Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers)
  2. Mark Felt (Deep Throat)
  3. Karen Silkwood (Nuclear plant safety)
  4. Jeffrey Sterling
  5. Joseph Wilson (“What I didn’t find in Africa”)
  6. Russ Tice
  7. Chelsea Manning
  8. Edward Snowden

How many gave us information that changed policy for the better and made the citizenry better informed about illegal government activity? Yet almost all of them went to jail or were rendered bankrupt by government lawsuits.

The list is far too short because the treatment of these American heroes is appalling. It reminds me of the famous question: If you lived in Germany in 1940 would you hide a Jewish family in your home? If you knew what Snowden knew, would you have paid the price to expose the NSA’s illegal activities?

That means that we need to provide incentives to people just like we do in the private sector. We have a Whistle blowers compensation and protection law which is great if you are exposing corrupt activities at a bank or agribusiness. It’s useless when it comes to protecting those who expose the FBI or the Army. Government departments act like the Roman Catholic church or the NFL .We must extend the law to cover government employees too.

How about a Government Whistle Blower of the Year award – presented at the Oscars?

We also need each President to pardon at least one government whistle blower unless there is overwhelming evidence that the damage they did exceeded the good. The government should have to prove that damage was done, not just be allowed to claim that classified information was compromised. Isn’t every single document produced by the government considered classified?!

We can start with Edward Snowden, after all isn’t it just a little ridiculous/hypocritical to treat him like a criminal when Timothy Edgar, director of privacy and civil liberties in Obama’s own national security staff, said: “Snowden forced the NSA to become more transparent, more accountable, more protective of privacy — and more effective. …the U.S. government has reason to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Snowden.’ ”

– except it hasn’t and their hypocritical protection of corruption makes it less likely that others will come forward.

Fair and Unbalanced

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